*NEW* 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI REVIEW *NEW*

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Everything you could expect from a Bay flick and (surprisingly) more.

As an American ambassador is killed during an attack at a U.S. compound in Libya, a security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos.

At first; I didn’t know if I was going to be able to tolerate the relentless and OTT ‘Murica speeches, the nauseating clichéd family conversations and ridiculous banter from the incredibly macho team BUT once the siege took effect, I was hooked.

All that mind numbing rubbish thrown out of the window for a tense, riveting and nail biting thriller. A perfect platform for some very underrated supporting actors to steal the spotlight.

The first 40 minutes really was everything I expected from the Transformers director. It was big, bold with regular Bay stalwart Dion Beebe’s glossy cinematography making even the most grittiest Libyan slum look picturesque.

An incredibly unnecessary and testosterone fuelled stand off with James Badge Dale’s (Flight) cocky Tyrone and a group of Libyan rebels didn’t really give me high hopes. His macho demeanour and cock sure attitude just grated against me BUT once all the machismo and camaraderie between the group had subsided, he was actually quite good.

John Krasinki delivered a solid performance as newbie Jack. A perfect transition from the comedy circuit (The Office USA) to some serious acting. The last thing I watched this guy in was Lip Sync Battle against Anna Kendrick.

David Costabile (Breaking Bad) played the stuffy chief head caught up with the bureaucracy well. Not enough of him in my opinion. A lot more could have been made with his character. BUT it’s a difficult task when you’re trying to stay true to real life events. Something I was surprised to see Bay actually do. The only exaggeration here was, of course, the explosions and carnage.

Once the team of misfits were assigned to the Ambassador’s (Matt Letscher – The Flash) security detail, my interest was peaked. A slow burning thriller was set. The paranoia and tension bubbling away. I was completely caught up in it. Wondering if the casual passer by or cabbie was a possible enemy. Taking a picture of the compound to send to a militant? Or just sending a text? A distressed civilian trying to warn the guys? Or merely a distraction?

As night descended and the inevitable siege took place, a Black Hawk Down style scenario developed. Out manned, outgunned and no reinforcements on the way, 13 men had one hell of a task ahead of them.

You could bank on Bay to deliver an exhilarating and fast paced shoot em up. BUT despite a redemptive and thrilling second half, he still suffered from the same old flaws. The pace was far too long. This could have been cut by a good 30 to 45 minutes and been much better for it. It really did test by the closing minutes.

For all the intense and explosive action (Bay’s specialty), it was tough in parts to catch who was doing what. It was too dark. It helped add to the claustrophobia BUT you soon couldn’t see a damn thing. And then there was too much going on. Random blurs and endless numbers of faceless foes being shot left, right and centre didn’t help.

Toby Stephens (Black Sails) was wasted in his minute role. Anyone could have played the part. His character nothing more than a foot note to highlight the inefficiency and hypocrisy of ‘cutting through the red tape’ just to send support.

I was surprised at the dark humour and satire that popped up in this. Kids running around playing football while growing insurgents were creeping closer and closer. I couldn’t believe it. There was a moment where during the first wave of attack, the gang look over the compound wall to catch a neighbour sitting in his back garden watching the telly. What?!

The closing minutes may have tested as the explosions kept coming BUT it still left a little lump in the throat with a fitting tribute to the lives lost. Accompanied by real news footage of the Libyan civilians that mourned that fateful night.

A little long at the tooth BUT once it going, it was hard hitting and nail biting. A return to form of sorts for the Bay-ster. Good to see him do something other than Transformers.

3/5

*NEW* DADDY’S HOME REVIEW *NEW*

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

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Daddy should have stayed away.

Marky Mark and Ron Burgundy take each other on in a mediocre reunion.

Stepdad, Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell), is a radio host trying to get his stepchildren to love him and call him Dad. But his plans turn upside down when the biological father, Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg) returns.

Not bad. If you’re expecting The Other Guys 2, you might be left a little disappointed. We open to a ridiculously OTT sequence with Ferrell’s sickly sweet Brad praising fatherhood. Well, step-fatherhood. He plays the dim-witted simpleton so well. It doesn’t even feel like the guy’s acting. He’s a natural. Happy to have a family even if his delightful step kids draw demented doodles of him with a knife in his head and “homeless man poop” for hair. His response? Relief. Relieved that he’s NO longer dead in the pictures.

It’s easygoing enough BUT not quite as laugh…

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*NEW* THE FOREST REVIEW *NEW*

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Run to the hills . . . Avoid this movie!

A woman (Natalie Dormer) goes into Japan’s Suicide Forest to find her twin sister (Also Natalie Dormer) and confronts supernatural terror.

Dull, boring and laughable. I think Miss Dormer better stick with Game of Thrones. Another intriguing premise thrown down the gutter.

Credit where it is due. Dormer delivered the best performance that she could with the weak characters and cliched dialogue.

I really wanted the film to explore the mystery behind the Aokigahara Forest. Deemed the Suicide Forest. A forest so dense that it shuts out all natural sound. Making it a good site for suicide as no one can hear the acts take place. Believe me, I was freaked out by that paragraph alone on Wikipedia than I was with this movie.

The potential for a dark and psychological thriller squandered and replaced with a generic fright fest with little tension, predictable jumps and a twist you could see coming a mile off. 93 minutes? It felt a whole lot longer than that.

Despite Mattias Troelstrup’s beautifully shot cinematography and the creepy backdrop, The Forest was a coma-inducing bomb. The film flicked back and forth as Dormer’s Sara seeks Dorma’s Jess. The cliched flashbacks with her doppelganger twin were nauseating. Corny and unnecessary. Adding nothing to the mix.

When we weren’t exposed to these flashbacks, we had slow meandering shots of the woods with creepy trinkets popping up combined with lifeless dialogue between one dimensional characters that you couldn’t give two monkeys about.

Yukiyoshi Ozawa did his best to create a little suspense as the forest guide with his chilling ghost stories. Things finally picked up when Jess strayed from the path. A path that Ozawa repeatedly insisted she stayed on. BUT of course, what does she do?

The eeriness surrounding the Forest and the loss of time was a nice gimmick. BUT it never really got going. I could feel my eyes drooping. Reprieved by a few jumpy bits to keep me on my toes. A chance meeting involving a dark hallway in a remote hostel soon woke me out of my slumber. For a brief moment.

Taylor Kinney (Zero Dark Thirty) wasn’t strong enough or creepy enough to create any real threat or interest as the mysterious journalist that Jess meets along the way. The paranoia finally settling in thick and fast. BUT by the end I really didn’t care.

It took too long to get going. And when it did, you really wished you hadn’t bothered. Considering it had a $10 million budget, the effects were dreadful. Random extras popping up with manky fancy dress masks howling stupid noises really didn’t help matters.

And the finale offered a little of what I had expected. BUT it was rushed and far too frenetic. You also realised that the plot didn’t make any sense and the incredibly OTT score by Bear McCreary made it even more comical than it should have been.

A real mess. I’d wait for this to haunt the Horror Channel.

2/5

*NEW* THE COBBLER REVIEW *NEW*

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What a load of cobblers. And that’s coming from a Sandler fan. Just when I thought he couldn’t sink any lower.

A cobbler (Adam Sandler), bored of his every-day life, stumbles upon a magical heirloom that allows him to become other people and see the world in a different way.

I have to agree with the fan who said that this was terrible. Even for a Sandler movie. Too many ideas. Failure to pick a tone and poor execution makes this one messy movie.

A dull and highly unfunny opener did nothing to get things going. It took a good 20 minutes before Sandler’s mopey shoe cobbler found the magical ‘stitcher’ that would put him on his journey to . . . God only knows what?

A film that grossed only $24,000 dollars at the US box office? You could blame poor distribution. BUT this was pretty bad.

Laughable for all the wrong reasons. I watched it to the end so it wasn’t as horrific as people made out. I was hardly pent up with rage or proclaiming the death of the film industry. So by that analogy . . .

The concept was intriguing on paper. To walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. BUT how could it go so wrong? It took too long to get to the shoe swapping and when it finally did, they really shouldn’t have bothered.

A scene that should have been an endearing moment between Max (Sandler) and his mother (Lynn Cohen – Hunger Games: Catching Fire) came off a little awkward, to say the least. Transforming into his father and taking her on one last “date”. Yikes. A little cringe-inducing. I could see what they were trying to do BUT the cuddling and closeness was just weird.

The same could be said for when he transformed into Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens. Close to pulling his girlfriend in the shower until he realised he had to keep the shoes on. The moral implications if Max had succeeded would have made this a different film altogether.

The only supporting character that stood out was Method Man as the typecast street thug. That really isn’t saying much. Steve Buscemi did his best with the role of the buddy barber next door BUT it was such a weak character. A revelation about him in the closing act came as no surprise. Or interest, for that matter.

With all the possible gags and directions this could have gone down, it still failed to reach any level of expectation. Sandler changes into a transsexual, a dead decaying customer and an overweight kid. Trust me, I’m making it sound better than it sounds (Or not). A hammy and uninteresting subplot with Melonie Diaz’s (Be Kind Rewind) protester brought nothing to the mix.

And when the shoe swapping and face changing finally got going, it was done so badly and clumsily. In a ploy to stop Ellen Barkin’s dreadful Russian Mafiosi disposing of unwanted tenants for property development, I struggled to keep up with who was who BUT most importantly by the end, I didn’t really care.

Dustin Hoffman delivered more charm and charisma in his highly unnecessary and disappointing cameo than Sandler did in the whole film. The last act showed a little of what I had expected from the get go. BUT alas, it was NOT to be.

Sandler’s works were never going to win plaudits BUT were generally easy going and funny affairs. His latest offerings have been lazy, sloppy and dreadful. Ironic that he picks a project penned by somebody else and it’s even worse.

A couple of chuckles and an intriguing premise. BUT a mish mesh of ideas with NO tone, direction or gags, well . . .  Sandler better put his best foot forward and move on from this mess. God have mercy on the writer’s soles.

1.5/5